Kids Learn By Doing

Every child is going to learn differently.  All children use their senses to help them to explore the world and learn many different things, but each child uses this sensory input a bit differently as they process the information.

Most childrAnother Hatchett Job, adopt, adoptive family, adoptive parents, love, creative commonsen rely heavily on visual input.  Some rely heavily on auditory input.  It helps these children to hear about what they are learning as much or possibly more so than just seeing the topic or reading about it.  During the infant and toddler years, children put things into their mouths as part of their explorations.  For some students, adding experience through taste helps them to learn.  Other students need kinesthetic input to enhance their learning.  And to top it all off, most children use all of these sensory inputs to greater or lesser degrees than others.

The schools are supposed to take care of all of this educational stuff, right?  As a former educator, I strongly disagree.  Regardless of whether your child attends a formal school or is homeschooled, the parents lead the way when it comes to education.  Parents who value education and who love to learn will often have children who are more amenable to taking advantage of their education.  Parents who abdicate all responsibility for their child and his or her studies will likely (but not always) raise more lackadaisical students.

Parents need to understand that learning is not limited to a classroom setting.  Learning is just a part of living and exploring as we live our lives.  Learning is an active endeavor.  Some things may be learned passively, but the lessons that tend to stick with us into our adult lives tend to be made more memorable by our active participation in them.

So, how can parents possibly wade through the myriad of possibilities and know how to help their children learn?  It’s actually a bit simpler than you may think.  Another Hatchett Job, adopt, adoptive family, adoptive parents, love, creative commons

All children require some of each of these inputs as they learn, barring a major disability.  The key is to maximize the ones that your student enjoys while making sure they all get a little time at the educational party.

How?  Just follow the five senses for starters.  Here are some examples of things that parents can do with children of all ages to help foster learning by using the senses.

Sight.  This is easy.  Look at what you are learning.  Are there illustrations in a book?  Can you go outside and identify types of leaves or plants?  Can your toddler name the animals in a picture or in a field or petting zoo?

Hearing.  Read to your child.  Read with your child.  Let your child read to you.  Take turns reading.  Even when you are doing the reading, you are hearing your own voice say the words.  For many learners, this stimulates the formation of memory better than other sensory inputs.  Listen to music and learn about composers.  Learn to play an instrument.  Learn how to distinguish bird songs.  Encourage young children to play with the classic See ‘N Say toys to hear sounds and identify what made each sound.

Taste.  There is a great reason that many teachers let students add a cooking component to a lesson, particularly in Geography classes.  Getting the sample the cuisines of another culture is a fantastic way to explore another culture.  When you go on vacation to the coast, does your family try the local ‘catch of the day’?  Do you sample regional dishes and discuss why certain ingredients may be typical of that area’s dishes?  Nothing helps you remember a historic sugar plantation better than the taste from chewing on a piece of sugar cane.

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Home Ec is hard work! Photo by Jan Hatchett

Touch.  Children who rely heavily on touch often use movement (kinesthetics) to learn.  Tap a surface as you count with your child.  Let your child feel items that are related to the location you are visiting or a lesson in school.  Learning about Scotland, feel woolen fabric or even pet a lamb at a petting zoo while talking about where wool comes from and how it is processed.  Use manipulatives with math that the child can touch and handle.  Get outside and dig in the dirt to plant flowers or make rubbings of tree bark or leaves.  It’s okay to get dirty.  In some circles, a little dirt is much appreciated!

Smell.  Even been near a paper mill?  Particularly before the EPA regulated emissions, those were some stinky places!  Once you have experienced that sulphurous smell, you will never forget it.   The olfactory glands in our brains are located very near our memory centers.  This is why certain smells can evoke memories with shocking clarity.  The smell of theater popcorn or cookies baking in Grandma’s kitchen help us to recall information.  Students use this, too.  How many 40-somethings remember the smell of mimeograph fluid on school handouts?

Of course, this is not a definitive listing of methods for enhancing education, but it is a good start to encourage inquisitiveness and observation about the world around us while using the senses.  Learning is an active process, so get away from the television and cell phones and start interacting with the people and places nearby.

How do you use your senses to learn?

Till next time,




Why Homeschool? Because Life is an Educational Opportunity!

Question mark, thinker, Another Hatchett Job blog, homeschool, education, questions, Creative CommonsMy parents were absolutely fantastic when it came to education, but they probably didn’t think of themselves that way.  School breaks often meant camping or summer trips to Ohio or New Hampshire to see family.  On the way, though, there were all sorts of stops to look around, to read Historical Road Markers and if you didn’t have time to read one, my Dad would take a picture of it in hopes of being able to read it after he got our film developed!

As a kid, totally unrelated to school, I saw forts, lighthouses, Navy Bases, historical boats, submarines (this was pre-9-11, by the way and my Dad is a Navy vet), historical recreations of early settlements, museums, the Smithsonian, the founding documents for our nation, indian reservations, mountains, rivers, lakes, ponds, streams, “Alpine” villages, Appalachia, festivals which showed “pioneering” skills like blacksmithing, leatherworking, tanning, soapmaking, open fire cooking, quilting, and many others.  And, for every thing I remember from our trips, I am sure that I am forgetting several others.

In addition to the waypoints and destinations of our trips, we did light hiking (I was a club-footed kids with orthotics, so heavy duty hiking was out), in all kinds of terrains, went swimming, fishing, and just hung around outside.  As a young teen, we would take a hammock and Mom and I would take turns laying in the hammock, reading books for fun and alternating time with Dad.  Those were the best times!    Sometimes we met other family members and after dinner, would play softball together, letting the littlest members win.  My cousin and I swam and used a zip line to enter a lake.  We learned to make fires.  We lived with germs and survived (although I did go to Mercy Hospital in Pennsylvania at 12 years old after sand fleas bit my face in the night while camping.  My face swelled up and I couldn’t open my eyes).

And I learned something on every single trip!  One year, my uncle showed me how to find lady slippers, the only native orchid in North America, which are endangered.  A lovely native American at a reservation in North America liked that my hair was braided like hers.  Mom and Dad took a picture of us together and she took time to tell me about her family’s history and the crafts that they made.  And who could forget the never ending line of Historical Place Markers!  I laugh about it, especially the pictures of them.  But, to this day, I stop and read as many as I personally can.  My latest find was of a gorgeous old covered bridge in the backwoods of middle Georgia, constructed with pegs by a freed slave.  So, many years later, I am still learning from their example.Another Hatchett Job blog, horses, therapeutic riding, Creative Commons attribution

Now, it’s my kids who are rolling their eyes at me for reading these signs, but I know that they are learning, just as I did.  Today, oldest son and I met the farrier at the horse farm where DS 17 does therapeutic riding.  We learned about horse anatomy, those hooves and how to care for them, and about the skills needed for the job.  We learned that my son is actually too big in stature to comfortably work with horse hooves, but the farrier thinks that he would be a natural at Equine Massage.  I wasn’t raised around horses, so I had never heard of this.  Now, we have a new career path to explore that my son ( who is Autistic/Asperger’s syndrome) is excited about!  He isn’t going to attend college, but he might be able to apprentice and work toward certification in a field that would keep him near his beloved horse friends.

Another Hatchett Job blog, Creative Commons attribution, bird banding, baby birds, ornithologistYounger son likes to help (and is getting pretty proficient at it) Ornithologists (or bird nerds, as we affectionately call them) to do bird banding for migratory research studies.  He wants to be a wildlife biologist and he loves the opportunity to learn about and appropriately handle wild animals.  He got a taste for this type of work (and connections to eventually bird band) when both boys and hubby would take classes together on weekends at a wildlife management area that is about an hour away.  They took classes like bird identification, butterfly identification, dragonfly identification, frog and reptile identification, and general entymology identification.  These classes were aimed at kids and often involved a bit of slogging around in the shallows of a pond or marshy area.  My boys have loved being outside and the learning can kind of sneak up on them while they are having fun.

Even watching a documentary on some topic of interest with Mom and Dad can spur conversation and help develop an interest!  Homeschoolers often worry that they aren’t providing kids with enough opportunity to learn, but by creating an atmosphere where parents and kids are constantly learning new information and sharing with each other, these families are flinging open the doors to genuine and memorable learning.

I can’t remember worksheets that I completed in school, but I remember vividly putting my hands on the bullet holes in an old log fort in the North Georgia Mountains and learning about the battles that happened there and the lives that were lost.  And, I was a public school kid.  My parents just liked to learn things and took me along for the ride.  I wish more parents would do the same.  They supplemented my education while supplementing their own.  I hope my own kids are benefitting in much the same way.

Homeschooling is a lifestyle of learning, but every parent can help their child to continue learning and to love the acquisition of new information, regardless of how their children receive their formal education.  Unfortunately, in recent years, fewer families are doing these things with their children that aren’t homeschooling.  I worked in both public and private high schools for years and saw first hand that too many parents often completely abdicate any responsibility toward educating their children in academics, character, or even common sense.  Personally, as a homeschooling mama and a professional educator, I would challenge everyone to take one weekend a month to learn something different with your children.  Try a new recipe and learn about the country where this dish is commonly served.  Go on a field trip to a State Park or historic site and walk around.  Go for a long walk and really look at the flowers, trees, leaves, etc.  Before you know it, you will find yourself becoming an educator as well!

How do you encourage learning in your home?

Thanks for stopping by for this series, as this is the last article in the Why Homeschool? series, I hope you will check out any articles you may have missed.  More articles on homeschooling, frugal living, quilting, and life in general will be coming out weekly!

Why We Homeschool

Why Homeschool?  Appropriate Socialization

Why Homeschool?  Academic Excellence

Why Homeschool?  School Safety

Why Homeschool?  Child Led Learning

Why Homeschool?  Field Trips

Why Homeschool?  Learning Styles & Multiple Intelligences

Why Homeschool?  Religon

Why Homeschool?  Life Long Learners

Till next time,

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